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Key findings
  • A majority (60%) of Nigerians say the country’s economic condition is “fairly bad” or “very bad.” Almost the same proportion (57%), however, describe their personal living conditions as “fairly good” or “very good.”
  • Almost half (48%) of Nigerians say the country’s economic condition is “worse” or “much worse” than a year ago. But an overwhelming majority (82%) are optimistic that things will be “better” or “much better” in 12 months’ time.
  • The government receives a favourable performance rating on fighting corruption (59% of citizens say it is doing “fairly well” or “very well”) but not on managing the economy (33%), improving living standards of the poor (25%), creating jobs (25%), ensuring food security (19%), keeping prices stable (18%), and narrowing income gaps (16%)
  • About one-third of Nigerians experienced “moderate lived poverty” (27%) or “high lived poverty” (10%) during the previous year. About half went without enough food (51%), medical care (48%), and cooking fuel (47%) at least once, while more than three-fourths (77%) went without a cash income.

After a 2016 recession blamed mainly on low oil revenues and unchecked corruption (Daily Post, 2017), Nigeria’s economy has been showing signs of improvement. Despite foreignexchange shortages, poor infrastructure, and likely political tensions ahead of the February 2019 general elections, economic projections have been positive, including expected gross domestic product (GDP) growth of about 2.6% in 2018 (Focus Economics, 2018).

But how likely are these projections to improve life for everyday Nigerians? Poverty alleviation and economic development have been refrains in presidential election campaigns over the years, from Olusegun Obasanjo’s poverty eradication, rural infrastructure, social welfare, and youth empowerment schemes to Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s seven-point agenda to Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda. In the same vein, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (2017-2020) aims at restoring Nigeria’s economic growth (Office of the Chief Economist, 2017).

But many election promises never translate into delivery of services that could improve the living conditions of most Nigerians. Almost half (47%) of the country’s population still live in poverty (World Poverty Clock, 2018); the African Development Bank Group (2018) estimates that eight out of 10 Nigerians live on less than $2 a day. And while Nigeria’s Constitution calls upon the state to ensure that its people have adequate shelter and food, a living wage, medical benefits, and other necessities, many citizens still grapple with limited access to basic goods and services.

Afrobarometer’s latest survey in Nigeria indicates that a majority of citizens see economic conditions as bad and the country as going in the wrong direction – although on both indicators, public perceptions are less gloomy than a few years ago, and an overwhelming majority are optimistic that the economy will be better in a year’s time.

More than one-third of Nigerians repeatedly went without basic life necessities during the previous year, and many say that obtaining public services was difficult, took “a long time,” and required the payment of a bribe.

Oluwole Ojewale

Oluwole Ojewale is assistant program manager at the CLEEN Foundation in Abuja, Nigeria.

Josephine Appiah-Nyamekye Sanny

Josephine is the knowledge transfer manager for Afrobarometer.